It’s been 10 years to the day when I started Koru UX Design with all of 3 members. We began with harboring the ambition of shifting the focus of software design from the business to the users. I’m immensely proud that in the years to follow, we did well on our will to prove that a happy user is indeed at the core of any successful business.
These past 10 years have been gratifying and debilitating, and the ups and downs have made us what we are today. So, it only seems right to share our collective wisdom that we’ve gleaned as a company with the hope that it acts as a beacon or an inspiration.
10 Years, 10 Lessons:
1. The learning never stops
Even after 10 years, we’re still learning more and more about the business of design. Quite like how the design process works – it’s constant learning and evolving – one should never be fixated on theories and beliefs. There isn’t a set formula to succeeding in business. As you discover and learn more, be ready to revise your beliefs and don’t be afraid of inconsistencies.
2. The people you hire make the company
As cliched as this may sound, stellar resources do form the foundation of a successful company. Therefore, getting the right people is a long-term investment you make in the future of your company. Furthermore, grooming and nurturing that talent is also a necessity. It is important to create a safe haven for creativity and expression, considering our line of work. Do this, and that’s half the battle won.
3. The most worthy clients aren’t always the best ones
What fun is it when you get to work with someone whose sensibilities and aesthetics match your’s, point to point? There are greater lessons to be learned from conflicts, it is only the most enriching experience your team will ever go through, albeit in hindsight. Every such encounter made us tougher and mature. The key was to not give up, chin up, learn from it and keep moving.
4. Saying ‘no’/ offering pushbacks is easier said than done
Seeing as we are on the topic of conflicts making you better and such, here’s a little heads-up. Standing up for your design can be difficult, but has to be done. We are duty borne to solve a business problem in the right and best way possible, even if it means to compromise on the aesthetics. This is a tightrope walk at all times, but it is also the design team’s prerogative to insist upon the better rather than the prettier solution.
5. Great products don’t sell by themselves
You speak about your work and your work will speak for you. Never underestimate the power of networking and promotion. Design awards and conferences are worthwhile places to ensure the right audience gets a glimpse of your potential and caliber. Do not shy away from sharing about your projects, methodology, beliefs, and design understanding – it is the most honest way to gain some motivation for you and the team.
6. Picking up a niche has been the best and most rewarding decision
Yes, the more the services offered, the better are the chances of gaining clients. And, more the clients, more the moolah. As hard as it was to say ‘no’ to misfit but lucrative opportunities, a full-spectrum design company was never a good idea for us. Instead, we chose to supremely excel at one thing (enterprise UX), and one thing only, and like a compounding effect in finance, finding a niche and sticking to it has been exponentially rewarding.
7. Reputation is the most valuable asset in the business of design
There may be temptations galore to take shortcuts or skimping over the details. No matter how hard it is to meet deadlines or how lucrative the alternates are, they’re never worth trading your well-oiled methods and workways. Your reputation is made up of your systems and your approaches – compromise on this front and your reputation and your business along with it are sure to go for a toss.
8. Design Thinking is truly a way of life
Resist the temptation to jump to a solution the moment you hear a problem. Instead, stop to consider a range of possible solutions. This always, and I mean always, helps you make a sound decision. It may sometimes result in delayed decisions, but it saves everyone from mediocre (and sometimes half-baked) ideas and strategies.
9. Longevity gives you an unprecedented advantage
No matter how intense the situation may be, ensure that you do all it takes to survive. Sometimes, it may seem as if throwing in the hat is the only alternative available, but it never is. You need to sustain long enough to reap the fruit of what you have sown, and it is a worthwhile endeavor.
10. Your culture is not what you put up on walls and websites
The company’s true culture is revealed by how the leaders make decisions and respond to testing situations. That’s where the rest of the team will gather its cues from and replicate. Your management’s conduct is what shapes the values the organization at large will believe in and their response in any given situation.
Every time I hit a wall or feel it’s too much to handle, I remind myself of a quote from Ben Horowitz’s ‘The Hard Things About Hard Things’, which goes,
“If you want to be great, this is the challenge. If you don’t want to be great, you never should have started this company.”
These 10 years have brought us tremendous success and fulfillment, and if I daresay, put us on the right track to pursuing our goal of becoming the world’s most preferred enterprise UX company. With a great sense of excitement, we’re looking forward to designing more creative milestones in the years to come.